Extremist Violence by Muslims In America vs. Hate Crimes Against Muslims in America

In an op-ed in The New York Times Sunday Review, Nicholas Kristoff makes the following claim,

Last year Americans were less likely to be killed by Muslim terrorists than for being Muslim, according to Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina. The former is a risk of approximately one in six million; the latter, one in one million.

Charles Kurzman repeats these claims on his university website. Kurzman documents a total of four Muslims who were murdered “for being Muslim”,

In 2016, Americans were less likely to be killed by Muslim extremists (1 in six million) than for being Muslim (one in one million): 54 fatalities in a population of approximately 324 million vs. 4 fatalities (Khalid Jabara in Tulsa and Imam Maulama Akonjee, Thara Uddin, and Nazma Khanam in New York) in a population of approximately 3 million.

But with three out of those four, there is currently no evidence that they were anti-Muslim hate crimes.

  • Nazma Khanam was stabbed to death in a botched robbery in New York City in August 2016. Although initially her family and some in the media called this a hate crime, there is no evidence that this is the case. The alleged killer, Yonatan Gálvez-Marin, apparently approached Khanam and demanded money. When she refused, he stabbed her and ran.
  • Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin were shot execution-style on August 13 after leaving a mosque. Oscar Morel was arrested and charged with the crime a couple days later. Morel plead not guilty, and police have said they are still investigating what his motive for the shooting was. It is certainly possible that this will turn out to have been a hate crime, but police were also investigating the possibility that this was a murder-for-hire. The bottom line is, we don’t know enough about the murder yet to conclusively say the two were murdered because they were Muslim.
  • Khalid Jabara was murdered by a racist neighbor who had harassed him for years, including using racial epithets against him. Jabara’s alleged killer, Stanley Majors, was charged with a hate crime in addition to first-degree murder.

This still leaves Kristoff’s basic claim intact. The odds of being murdered by a Muslim extremists was about 1 in 6 million, while the odds of being murdered in an anti-Muslim hate crime was 1 in 3 million in 2017.

But Dr. Kurzman should be much more careful with his claims. Including someone like Nazma Khanam on a list of supposed victims of hate crime when that is clearly not the case will lead some people to dismiss his claims entirely.

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